Idle thoughts about Axies and crypto in general.
So, this is a bit of rambling post about cryptocurrencies in general... brought about by the recent latest hype project of Axie Infinity. Now, I don't have anything against Axie Infinity (or crypto) at all, I think it is great that they have built an interesting blockchain based game, and their own sidechain to overcome the current problems of the Ethereum network. However, there are things about the way that they and their backers that portray themselves that rankles a bit with me... and I find that thee are more than enough projects (most) that fall into the same trap of selling and sometimes falling for their own marketing of how they are going to democratise something or another... we shouldn't believe the marketing of our new frontierland, but try to see things for what they are... either we try to rebuild in a new way that actually empowers more people... or we rebuild the old, but with new technology.
So, specifically with Axies. It is interesting that they have built a decent enough game... however, the main problem for them at the moment is the high cost of entry. To acquire the 3 Axies that you need to play, requires somewhere in the order of 500-1000 USD of ETH to purchase on the open market. That is a pretty high barrier for most people in the world, or even just most people... not everyone has that sort of disposable money to spend on something that they might or might not like. Of course, if you do, that is great... but it would be unwise to extrapolate that wealth of opportunity and believe that it is common, if only everyone else in the world just "tried to succeed".
So, the current solution to this problem is the creation of guilds and "scholarships". Well, aside from the hi-jacking of the word "scholar" to describe something akin to digital grind at cheap labour prices... Anyway, this is being portrayed as impressive way for people (generally from poorer parts of the world) to leverage their time and earn money... at rates that are far better than other options. So, I have seen that some people have given up study in exchange for "working" at the Axie grind factory. I'm not sure that this is a good deal in the long term.
Now, if we strip away the crypto idealism and all of that... it appears to be no different to worker exploitation that we had in the Industrial Age (just trapped up in Web 3, crypto and internet buzzwords).... which when it became distasteful in the First World, we exported it and with it safely out of sight... it was out of mind. We didn't care, as long as we got cheap clothes and somewhere else to dump our electronic waste and recycling.
After listening to an interview with one of the founders, it seems like Axie have opted for a game design and infrastructure that hampers bots. So, unfortunately for the owners of large Axie collections... they need to "employ" humans... so, what is the next best thing to a bot? A human that needs very little maintenance.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm sure that the workers are earning life-changing money... but let us now kid ourselves. The owners of the guilds aren't doing it for them. Much like the factory owners of the past, the workers are necessary cost of getting richer. The sooner you can replace them with something cheaper, the better.
So, in many respects. I do think that @splinterlands has done this better with the much lower cost of entry. This is a design that actually doesn't lock out players at the start. Sure, they start with a weaker deck... but that is in stark contrast to NO deck.
So, this brings me to crypto in general. I think that Axie is not really alone in this self-delusion. One of the original promises of crypto was the removal of middlemen and the devolution of power away from centres. However, over time, it appears that the problem wasn't necessarily the structures that had been built in society... like all past economic/power/political system, the problem have been that the structures have been built and used by humans.
Sure, there are the few visionary people that really do give up power and influence in order to empower a decentralised system that is better for others... however, I'm pretty damn sure that that isn't the case for most of the projects we see at the moment. Not everyone is that idealistic in practice... in theory, they are... but when push comes to shove, people aren't like that.
So, I'm left with the disheartening thought that the ideals of the new age of crypto has fallen prey to normal human instincts. People want to upend the existing structure... not because they want to create a new system with better decentralised resource sharing/allocation and all of that, but because they want to create a new system with different power centres, preferably with certain people at the top instead of the old!
Sigh... should I be surprised? Or should I hold on to my idealism? Or give in to pragmatism?
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